I fell in love with him right there and then. I quickly forgot about the lies he had fed me, the conviction I had that I could never be with him, the fact that I had been trying to get over him for almost four months now. All I felt now was a deep sense of longing, a wish that he would take me in his arms and press me to him, so that I could wrap my arms around his neck and tell him how much I had missed him.
“Chance, what is this?” I asked, already knowing the answer but scared to admit it to myself.
“It’s a flower shop,” Chance replied. “I thought that would be obvious.”
I laughed, and a tear ran down the side of my face. “I can see that,” I said. “I mean, why is my name above the door of the flower shop?”
“It has recently been brought to my attention that flowers are becoming the next big thing, and that with a proper store in the right place run by the right person, it could really be a flourishing business,” he said. “Pun not intended.”
I smacked his arm and folded mine across my chest, my entire body now shaking in excitement. The store looked absolutely beautiful, and I knew that if I stepped inside, it would be even more breathtaking. I was at a loss for words, my emotions racing through me like tidal waves, crashing against each other, making me wish for the briefest of moments that I had just ignored the knocking on my door.
And at the same time, I was extremely grateful I hadn’t.
“It’s beautiful,” I finally said.
“It’s yours,” Chance replied.
I glanced at him and met his gaze. “Why?”
“You wouldn’t come to Austin,” Chance said, “so I thought I’d come here to you.”
“What?” I gasped, refusing to believe what I was hearing.
“You wouldn’t answer my calls, or my texts, so I assumed you were still mad at me. I thought I needed an entrance if I wanted you to hear me out.”
“I am still mad at you,” I said. “It’s going to take a lot more than a flower shop to make me come around.”
“I can give you the limo,” Chance joked. “Call it a belated Christmas gift. Or a New Year’s Eve gift.
“I am serious,” he said. “I have two of them.”
I laughed and shook my head in disbelief. “I don’t want your money, you jackass.”
Chance laughed, took both my hands in his and turned me around so that I was looking right at him. “I know,” he said. “I’m not trying to buy you back into my life, Ashlyn. I’m here because I want to be a part of yours. I’ve wanted it since the moment I met you, but I had to go through a couple of lawsuits to realize it.”
“You’re a very strange man,” I smiled.
Chance shrugged. “One of my better traits.” He squeezed my hands softly, rubbing my knuckles with his thumbs. “I’m not going to lie to you. I do have a crazy life, and I won’t be able to leave my company after everything I’ve been through to build it. But I understand that it’s not all about me, and that I can’t expect you to do what I was unwilling to do myself. But I want to find a way. I want this to work. I need this to work.”
I looked at the shop, then back at him. My mind raced, and I tried to come to terms with what he was asking of me. I didn’t know if we could pull it off. I didn’t know if there could be an ‘us’ with all the complications that came with it. But I was definitely willing to give it a shot. I couldn’t deny it anymore, couldn’t kid myself otherwise; I wanted Chance Ridder in my life. I needed him just as much as he needed me, and it didn’t scare me to admit that.
“So what are you proposing, Mr. Ridder? A partnership?”
Chance laughed and shrugged. “I’m not sure,” he said, “but I’m here on a ‘break’ for a week or two, so I’m sure we’ll figure it out somehow.”
“Another sabbatical?” I asked.
He leaned down, pulling me to him and locking his lips with mine. The kiss was so passionate, so loving, I felt my knees threaten to buckle beneath me.
He broke away and cupped my chin, looking me straight in the eye. “This can be whatever we want it to be. Happy New Year, Ashlyn. I’ll do everything in my power to make this coming year amazing.”
We spent most of the day in the store, with me walking her through everything we had done, each renovation made, and of course the sheer power of the software on her new computer that would allow her to grow the business and help her reach the potential I knew she could reach. All the time, I held her hand tight, keeping her close to me, not wanting to let her go.